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Road America: The terrible wonder of driving in Los Angeles

2 weeks ago

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Sam Smith | Journalist


3 June 2024

Everyone says it’s awful. Or great. A hellhole, a paradise. Living there will fix your life, or you could simply punch yourself in the face every morning and get the same result.

It is Los Angeles. Where getting around means driving whether you want to or not. Where taxis are nonexistent, rideshare can be ferociously expensive, and the public-transit system is so inconvenient and compromised, residents often forget it exists. Amazingly, all of that can feel designed into the system. In the middle of the 20th century, Southern California met a population boom as the entire United States met a postwar prosperity boom as the automobile met its technological and social stride. From freeways to city centres, Los Angeles was built – unfolded, relentlessly expanded – around and for the car like no city before or since.

I do not live in LA, but once, I thought I knew it. That was decades ago, before I had travelled there for work – hundreds of days on the ground across dozens of years, traversing America’s most sprawling megalopolis over and over behind the wheel.

What do you meet in that experience but not a quick visit?

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